Vendors are giving us reason to be optimistic about public relations technology – from AI that will predict your pitching success to more tangible PR measurement and attribution
Years ago, I had the opportunity to be a PR director for a publicly-traded company that developed and sold software to the PR market. It was an interesting job, particularly from a B2B tech PR perspective.
While I’ve primarily done B2B tech work over my 20-year career – and strive to be diligent in becoming knowledgeable about a market and products – it’s not quite the same as being an end-user or SME. In this case, with PR software, I was both of those things.
That experience sparked a keen interest in the space and also gave me an insider’s view of the market. I had access both to executive thinking about strategy – and also to a handful of simply brilliant product managers to study this stuff from every direction.
About two years ago, I saw an opportunity to use that experience to fill an information void in PR technology. So, I started tracking the community and publishing three different writing series on PR technology (PR Tech Sums, PR Tech Briefings, and Product Reviews).
Based on those efforts, here are a few innovations that are helping PR do a better job.
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1. AI-assisted recommendations suggesting contacts to pitch
In media relations, you are constantly on the hunt for reporters and influencers writing about your industry. It would be nice if the tools you use to support your efforts would analyze your activity and automatically keep an eye out for recommendations on your behalf. In other words, the tool says, “We saw you pitched X reporter, you might also pitch Y reporter too because they cover Z topic.”
Notified by Intrado gets close. As I wrote in a briefing about the company, Notified will actively surface reporters and influencers based on searches you’ve set up in the system. This is done automatically by artificial intelligence (AI) that Notified has running in the background. It allows Notified to suggest additional contacts you haven’t reached but should be based on the combination of your search terms and the reporter’s coverage.
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2. AI predicting a pitches chances of earning coverage
There are two startups in the PR tech space that are aiming to provide predictive features. These tools claim to use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve your pitching success.
A company called Propel has launched PitchPrefer, which is a feature that analyzes a reporter’s pitching preferences with AI. If you understand how your contact likes to be pitched, that should improve your chances.
3. Better collaboration for PR teams
If there are two or more PR people pitching reporters on your team, you’d probably like to avoid having them pitch the same reporter at the same time. Muck Rack helps here by sharing any activity associated with a contact on your list across the team.
For example, any outreach activity related to a contact on your list is compiled into an activity stream, so the team has an awareness of who is reaching out to who. In a sense, it’s like a knowledge management tool.
A related feature Muck Rack offers is the “relationship owner” designation. If you work for a big agency or even a large corporate communications shop, you can designate one person as a relationship owner so that pitches are filtered through that person.
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4. Identifying backlinks in media monitoring (finally)
Digital savvy PR pros know that backlinks are hard to get, but every bit of an outcome as a media mention. In fact, sometimes a backlink is better than a mention. This is because links are important to search rankings, they are more likely to have a sustained long-term impact in both awareness and leads.
However, none of the conventional, or larger, media monitoring tools on the market today can identify a backlink. This means if someone links to a press release in your company’s online newsroom but doesn’t mention a keyword you have set up as a search – you’ll never know it.
That all changed when an SEO software company named SEMrush moved into PR with the acquisition of a startup called Prowly. Perhaps in 2021, this move will force one of the larger, and forward-thinking PR tech vendors, to acquire a similar SEO software company like AHREFS, Raven Tools, or Moz.
Moz invented “domain authority” and many of the PR tech vendors already have a partnership to include DA in their analytics. Which vendor do you think will take that relationship to the M&A altar first?
5. Podcast monitoring
Audio is changing how we search for – and consume information. Podcasts are increasingly part of that trend. More than 100 million Americans listen to podcasts monthly, according to The Infinite Dial 2020 by Edison Research. Accordingly, last year we saw a number of media monitoring tools add podcast monitoring.
Critical Mention has built its own podcast monitoring feature. It includes the ability to edit clips, and “speech-to-text technology” for searching keywords. Other vendors, including Cision, Meltwater, Muck Rack, Propel and Burrelles have all partnered with broadcast monitoring specialist TVEyes to provide it.
Propel says that while TVEyes is “the basis” of broadcast monitoring, the company has “built layers of data and analysis on top of it” that “enables certain functionality that no other broadcast monitoring tools have.”
Muck Rack makes a similar claim. It says it has “integrated TVEyes in such a way that makes the experience organic and seamless all-in-one platform.”
Muck Rack also has also created a podcast contact database. As far as I can tell, it is the first among the larger vendors to have this option, though I have seen some new and smaller vendors offering this feature.
6. Integration with Google Analytics to measure referral traffic from earned media
Google Analytics (GA) can tell PR how much referral traffic is coming from earned media mentions. You can build a custom report in GA (or even events) that aggregate this data, but you have to add each new mention to the report, which is cumbersome.
Meltwater offers and integration with GA and its media monitoring tool that will help you do this in an automated fashion – and it gets you closer to earned media attribution. I took a briefing from them last year but never got around to writing it up. The company has made a series of product improvements before I got to it – so stay tuned – I may revisit it this year.
7. Marketing attribution for earned media
If a prospective buyer reads coverage you earned and then downloads a white paper a week later, or even makes a purchase, you’d want to be able to attribute those outcomes with your effort. That’s the sort of information you need for PR measurement and to mathematically calculate ROI (where ROI = return/cost x 100).
Cision and Onclusive are two companies that have monitoring tools that do this. Cision calls their tool Impact and uses the same technology and partnerships that digital advertisers use to get the information. Onclusive told me it “essentially” marries and correlates two sets of analytics – those from the publication with those on your website – to produce the data.
8. Retargeting ads based on earned media coverage
Retargeting is one of the sexist things I’ve seen in PR technology. It’s the ability to re-target people that read your coverage with ads. That’s a sure-fire way to get a digitally savvy CMO excited and will drive closer alignment between PR and marketing – at least for the 40% of PR pros that report to the CMO.
Both Onclusive and Cision offer this feature, but there are a couple of challenges. First, it’s expensive and second, it may be short-lived as third-party tracking cookies get phased out.
It’s worth mentioning here, that first-party cookies will be paramount in the near future. If you do any blogging, or perform some other content marketing function for your company, as part of your PR duties, you should lobby to cookie the site – which takes just a few minutes to embed a little bit of tracking code – and use the retargeting data to experiment with Google Ads and social media platforms.
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